Helcim is a Canadian credit card processing company that's been in business since 2006 and entered the U.S. market in 2013. We selected Helcim as the best credit card processing company for small businesses because it's one of the most transparent credit card processing companies, offering interchange-plus pricing and posting its complete rates and fees online. Its retail rates are lower than average, and it's one of the few processing companies that has a rate guarantee, which means that the interchange-plus markup percentage and per-transaction fee you pay won't increase during the life of your account. There's also no lengthy contract, as Helcim provides its services on a month-to-month basis.
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This transparent credit card processing company provides in-person and online credit card processing services to many different business types and sizes, including retail, restaurant, e-commerce, property management and service-based businesses. It also works with registered charitable organizations, including Unicef and Children's Wish Foundation.
Pricing and Terms
Every credit card processor pays the same interchange rates and card brand fees – the only negotiable portion of processing rates is the margin, or markup, the processor adds on top of these base costs.
Industry experts favor interchange-plus pricing, because you can clearly see how much you're paying the processor. In addition to offering this pricing model, the best processors post their rates online, so you know what to expect when you get your bill.
Helcim is exceptionally transparent with its pricing; it doesn't just post its markup, it posts all of its rates and fees online. It also gives you examples of how much you'll actually pay when you accept different types of cards, adding its margin to interchange rates and card brand fees. Here's what you'll pay when you use Helcim to accept credit card payments.
- 0.25 percent plus 8 cents above interchange: In-person credit card processing, with cards accepted using a card reader
- 0.45 percent plus 25 cents above interchange: Online credit card processing, including e-commerce sales, online invoice payments and transactions keyed into the virtual terminal
- 0.10 percent plus 10 cents above interchange: Registered charities receive a steep discount.
Helcim offers volume-based discounts, starting with businesses that process more than $25,000 per month, with deeper discounts available for higher-volume businesses. You can see its full discount schedule on the pricing page of Helcim's website.
In addition to posting its rates online, it also posts its fees, which is a rarity among credit card processors. It charges a single monthly fee; the amount depends on how you accept payments.
- $15: Monthly fee for businesses that accept credit cards in-person; includes a point-of-sale (POS) app for Apple and Android phones and tablets.
- $35: Monthly fee for businesses that accept credit cards online; includes a hosted online store.
- $50: Monthly fee for businesses that accept credit cards in-person and online; includes both the point-of-sale app and a hosted online store.
You'll notice that Helcim's monthly fee is higher than many, but it's also the only ongoing fee you pay, as it includes PCI compliance and access to the Helcim Commerce platform that comes with a virtual terminal. Most processors charge extra fees for these services.
Here's a list of fees you won't pay with Helcim:
- No application or setup fee
- No monthly minimum processing requirement
- No gateway setup fee
- No monthly gateway fee
- No annual fee
- No PCI compliance fee
- No early termination or account closure fee
There are some fees that you may be charged on a per-occurrence basis, or if you add extra services to your account. Here are some examples:
- Next-day deposits: $10 per month. It normally takes two business days for Helcim to deposit processed funds into your account; if you prefer to receive it faster, it costs extra.
- Chargeback fee: $15 per occurrence
- Add another location or merchant ID to your account: $15 per month
- ACH processing: $25 per month
- Level 3 data processing: $25 per month
- Multicurrency processing: $25 per month
- Changing your business name or bank account: $25 per occurrence
- PCI noncompliance: $60 per month until compliant. If you fail to establish PCI compliance within your first 90 days with Helcim, or if you neglect to renew it annually, you're charged this fee until you're compliant. This fee is intentionally steep to motivate you to take care of your PCI obligations.
When reviewing credit card processors, we looked for companies that don't tie you to long-term contracts. You pay monthly for Helcim's services and can cancel your account at any time without incurring an early termination fee or cancellation fee of any kind.
Even though there are no lengthy contractual obligations, you still want to read the application, terms of service and program guide, as you would with any processor, to ensure you understand what you're agreeing to, are aware of all possible fees, and know what the cancellation procedure entails.
When you sign up with Helcim, it sets you up with your own merchant account, and you can accept credit and debit cards from Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, JCB and China UnionPay.
Your account includes access to Helcim Commerce, an all-in-one merchant platform, that you'll use to manage your account. The platform includes the following features:
- Virtual terminal. With this tool, you can use your computer to key in transactions. You can also accept payments made using ACH transfers.
- CRM (customer relationship management). You can add contact information and notes to customer profiles, view purchase histories and store credit card details in Helcim's secure card vault. You can also enable and add your branding to Helcim's self-service customer portals, allowing your customers to update their contact and credit card information, view their order histories and pay invoices online.
- Inventory management. Helcim Commerce includes a product database that you can use to create a product catalog, set prices and track inventory. You can set it to alert you when stock is running low and run reports to identify your best sellers.
- This tool allows you to create and send invoices, and online merchants can also opt to receive online invoice payments.
- Recurring payments. You can manage subscriptions and recurring payments with this feature. It allows you to customize your subscription plans with trial periods, one-time fees, and metered and prorated billing.
Free tablet and phone POS app for retail accounts
Your retail processing account with Helcim comes with a POS app that supports unlimited devices. There's no limit on how many users you can add to your system, and it works with both Apple and Android phones and tablets. However, for U.S. merchants, the app doesn't yet integrate with an EMV terminal, which means that you'll have to use the POS system alongside the terminal, which takes an extra step.
Free hosted online store for online accounts
Your online processing account with Helcim comes with a hosted online store that has a shopping cart with a discount system and shipping integrations, a content management system, SEO settings, and an SSL certificate. You can use it with your own domain name. Or, if you have a website already, you can accept payments by adding Helcim's hosted payment pages to it or use its payment gateway API with Helcim.js.
Processing equipment options
Helcim encourages customers to purchase their processing equipment upfront and doesn't offer leases, which are notoriously expensive and noncancelable. You can choose from three Ingenico terminals, all of which are EMV compliant.
The company offers a mobile card reader, but it isn't EMV compliant, so you won't want to use it as your main method of accepting credit cards, as it leaves you open to counterfeit fraud liability. If you want to add peripherals like a cash drawer, receipt printer and barcode scanner to your system to create a POS station, you can purchase them from third-party vendors. You can find a list of compatible models on Helcim's website.
Helcim integrates with multiple shopping carts, e-commerce platforms, payment gateways and business software, including QuickBooks, Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento and Authorize.net. It also has an API available if you prefer to build a custom integration for your website.
Here are more details about Helcim to keep in mind as you choose a payment processing company for your business.
- Application process. You want to apply at one to two week two weeks before you need to start accepting payments. After you fill it out Helcim's online application, the company emails you requesting documentation, such as your business license, a utility bill or your driver's license and a voided check. On average, it takes one to two business days for the underwriters to approve your application. Once you're approved, the company ships your processing equipment, which takes another three to four business days to arrive.
- Free trial. If you want to take Helcim Commerce for a test run before you sign up, you can do so as the company offers a 30-day free trial. Payment processing isn't included – you'll need an account for that – but you can try out all the other features on the platform.
- Special promotion for women business owners. Helcim is running a special promotion in conjunction with its Small-Business Women Initiative in which it waives its monthly fee for the first year for new businesses owned by women. To qualify, businesses must be majority-owned by women and less than a year old. Documentation is required. This offer expires October 1, 2018.
- Helcim is a PCI Level 1 Service Provider, complying with the Payment Card Industry's highest standards. It secures payment data using encryption and tokenization technologies and two-factor authentication is available to keep your account from being compromised.
- Customer support. The quality of a processor's customer service is an important consideration. The Helcim representative we spoke with was friendly and provided us with precise information about rates, fees, and service terms. He answered our questions with candor, even when we asked about POS system's lack of terminal integration for U.S. businesses. Phone support is available 24/7, with after-hour calls directed to Elavon, Helcim's back-end processor. Helcim's website is also a valuable support resource, with a searchable knowledgebase, how-to guides and a blog.
Helcim is the best credit card processor for small businesses because of its transparency, lower-than-average retail rates, few fees and month-to-month service. However, there are some limitations to consider before deciding if Helcim is the right credit card processing company for your business.
First, Helcim doesn't have an EMV-compliant mobile card reader. If you prefer to use a terminal or accept payments online, this may not be an issue, but if you want to accept credit cards on the go, you should choose a processor that has an EMV mobile credit card reader so you're not liable for counterfeit fraud.
Another issue to be aware of is that the POS app included with your retail account doesn't yet directly integrate with the EMV credit card terminals. This is inconvenient, as if you decide to use it, it takes an extra step to ring up a sale using the app and then manually enter the total in the terminal to begin processing the transaction. The app integrates with the mobile card reader, but as discussed above, it isn't EMV-compliant, so for now, your best option is to use the app alongside the terminal.